William Ashton OBE is the Life President and Founding Music Director of NYJO. In 1965 he founded the London Schools Jazz Orchestra with Pat Evans, Mike Kershaw and others. This rapidly became the London and then the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, which Bill then nurtured into its unique position in British jazz over the subsequent 45 years.
In 1978 he was awarded the MBE, the first time the word “jazz” had ever appeared in the Honours List. Bill has subsequently received the Silver Medal of The Worshipful Company of Musicians, a Radio 2 Award and the Parliamentary Special Jazz Award, and has been made a Fellow of the City of Leeds College of Music.
Bill became Life President of NYJO in 2009 and remains as Founding Music Director. He was awarded the OBE for Services to Music in 2010.
Further details of Bill’s career can be found on the Advisory Board Members page.
Dame Cleo Laine
Cleo Laine, known as the “Queen of Jazz”, in her singing prime, is a Grammy Award-winning British jazz vocalist and stage actress – she is the only singer ever to have been Grammy-nominated in each of the popular, classical and jazz categories.
In 1979 she was awarded the CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) for her services to music, being elevated to Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 1997 Queen’s Honours List.
Apart from their musical work together, Cleo and her late husband, Sir John Dankworth, made a great contribution to the British jazz scene by developing The Stables at Wavendon into what is now a world-class educational and jazz performance venue.
The couple also had a long-standing association and mentoring involvement with NYJO over many years, and Dame Cleo was happy to be invited to succeed Sir John as an Honorary Vice President after his death in 2010.
Sebastian Coe – in full, Baron Coe of Ranmore – became famous as a British athlete, winning four Olympic medals and setting eight world records in middle-distance running. His great rivalry with fellow Briton Steve Ovett dominated athletics for much of the ‘80s.
He served as a Conservative member of the House of Commons from 1992 to 1997 and was elevated to the House of Lords as a life peer in 2000. In 2003 he became a council member of the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF), and was appointed vice president of the IAAF in 2007.
In 2004 he was named head of London’s bid for the 2012 Olympics. After London was awarded the Games in 2005, he became the chair of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games. Sebastian was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1991, was promoted to Knight Commander (KBE) in 2006, and was invested as a Companion of Honour in 2013.
During his years as an MP, Sebastian served on the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Jazz, jointly chairing with Ken Clarke. Together they mounted a successful campaign to save the BBC Big Band and, a few years later, he used his maiden speech in the House of Lords to urge Arts Council England to invest more in jazz, an art form that has not always fared as well as, say, opera when the great and the good have ladled out public funds.
Valerie Amos was made a Labour life peer in 1997 and subsequently served as Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council. She has also served at the UN as Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, prior to which she had been British High Commissioner to Australia.
After working in the Equal Opportunities, Training and Management Services in local government in the London boroughs of Lambeth, Camden and Hackney, she was Chief Executive of the Equal Opportunities Commission from 1989 to 1994.
In 1995 Valerie co-founded Amos Fraser Bernard and was an adviser to the South African government on public service reform, human rights and employment equity.
She has previously been Deputy Chair of the Runnymede Trust (1990–98), a Trustee of the Institute for Public Policy Research, a non-executive Director of the University College London Hospitals Trust, a Trustee of Voluntary Services Overseas, Chair of the Afiya Trust, a director of Hampstead Theatre and Chair of the Board of Governors of the Royal College of Nursing Institute.
Valerie was awarded an Honorary Professorship at Thames Valley University in 1995 in recognition of her work on equality and social justice. In 2010 she received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Stirling in recognition of her “outstanding service to our society and her role as a model of leadership and success for women today.”
Guy Barker MBE is an English jazz trumpeter and composer. He started playing the trumpet at the age of twelve, and within a year had joined NYJO. After lessons from Clark Terry in 1975, Barker went on in the 1980s to play with John Dankworth, Gil Evans (with whose orchestra he toured and recorded in 1983), Lena Horne and Bobby Watson.
From 2008 to 2014 Guy was the Musical Director/Arranger for the opening gala concert “Jazz Voice: Celebrating a Century of Song” at the annual London Jazz Festival. He was also the Musical Director/Arranger on a number of BBC Radio 2 Friday Night is Music Night shows featuring the Guy Barker Jazz Orchestra with the BBC Concert Orchestra.
He was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2015 New Year Honours for Services to Jazz.
He graduated from the University of London with a Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) and a Licentiate in Dental Surgery (LDS) in 1966, became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England and worked as dentist from 1965 to 2005.
Anthony is also the bandleader of the Lord Colwyn Organisation and has been, variously, Chair of radio stations Raw FM and Banbury Local Radio. He is also Joint Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group.
Tony Male CMG has had an association with NYJO since 1975, when he helped Bill Ashton to rescue the band’s Reno Concerts and USA Tour, but their friendship goes back 13 years earlier – they were both performers at the Inter Varsity Jazz Festival at Reading in 1962.
NYJO‘s American Tour went ahead in 1976 and was a great success. In July 1977 NYJO was invited by Goskontsert, the Soviet State concert agency, to become the first British big-band ever to visit the Soviet Union. Tony negotiated and signed the contract in January 1977 during one of his visits to Moscow. He joined the Board in January 1976 and was made an Honorary Vice President in 2003.
He was Director of the Central Bureau for Educational Visits and Exchanges for almost 13 years. A jazz and flamenco guitarist, he counted Joe Pass and Pépé Martinez amongst his close friends. He is an Honorary Member of the British Council, an Honorary Fellow of the Westminster Institute of Education at Oxford Brookes University, of the College of Preceptors and a Life Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts
During his Central Bureau career he was honoured by the Council of Europe, Belgium, France (3 times), Spain and the United States of America. Tony was appointed to the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and Saint George (CMG) in the 1997 New Year’s Honours List.
As of February 2018, Tony will retire as an Honorary VP of NYJO after 43 wonderful years of invaluable service. We can’t thank him enough for his support over these many years!
Kelvin Hopkins has been the Labour MP for Luton North since 1997. Married with two grown-up children (both jazz lovers), Kelvin attended Nottingham University in the 1960s, achieving a BA (Hons) in Politics, Economics and Mathematics with Statistics.
Kelvin worked in the Economic Department of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) for five years and is a former lecturer in further education. For 18 years he was a Policy & Research Officer with NALGO/UNISON and earlier in life also spent a total of five years in industry.
He has many interests in Parliament and was formerly Secretary (now Treasurer) of the All Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group. In his youth Kelvin led his own local jazz band, and finished his playing career(?!) long ago as second tenor saxophone with the Nottingham Big Band.
Favourite musicians (of which there are many) include Lester Young (an early inspiration), Charlie Parker (of course) and the sublime Clifford Brown.
Previously a member of the NYJO Board since 1998, Kelvin became an Honorary Vice President in 2015.